f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

June 9, 2008

the sad sky-diving suicide of a young schenectady man

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 6:13 pm

Sloan Carafello, a 29-year-old resident of Schenectady, died Saturday afternoon, June 7, 2008. May he rest in peace, after ending what must have been a very troubled life, by jumping out of a sky-diving plane without a parachute.

See “Man dies after leap from plane: Schenectady man hits house in jump without parachute” (Albany Times Union, June 8, 2008); “Police say jumper’s death suicide” (Albany Times Union, June 9, 2008); “Man leaps from plane, dies: City man didn’t wear parachute” (Schenectady Sunday Gazette, June 8, 2008); “Plane jumper called ‘quiet’ resident of Y” (Schenectady Daily Gazette, June 9, 2008); “Man jumps from plane with no parachute, dies” (Associated Press, June 8, 2008); “Jumper’s death ruled a suicide” (CapitalNews9, June 9, 2008).

Here’s a news video clip with a good summary, including an interview with Bob Rawlins, the owner/pilot of the plane and the Duanesburg Skydiving Club, from WNYT.com, Channel 13 in Albany, NY. “Skydiver jumps to his death,” June 8, 2008. [Frankly, I don’t much like the look on the anchor woman’s face at the end of this national FoxNews video of the event, called Bizarre Death. ]

update (June 10, 2008): “Probe of fatal leap from plane finds pilot issue: FAA says sky-diving club owner lacked required commercial license for carrying paid passengers ” (Albany Times Union, June 10, 2008) Bob Rawlins has a private pilot’s license and an FAA-approved license to pack parachutes, but not the commercial license needed to have paying passengers. The Federal Aviation Administration says it is unlikely that Rawlins’ lack of proper credentials contributed to the tragedy.

The basic facts of Sloan Carafello’s death:

  • Carafello had called a number of time and asked to be allowed to ride on the plan as an observer, saying he wanted to take photos for a school project. On Saturday, he rode his bicycle to the Duanesburg Airport, about a dozen miles from his home, a room at the Schenectady YMCA.
  • After the three skydivers jumped (a student, a videographer and the instructor), witnesses said Carafello followed with no diving gear, and the pilot was not able to grab him to stop him.
  • The videographer filmed as Carafello fell and Carafello took pictures of himself while falling through the air, according to the pilot. Police have the video.
  • He fell 10,000 feet onto a house near the Duanesburg Airport, and died of massive trauma. State Police have ruled the death a suicide.
  • Carafello’s co-workers, in the seafood department at the Eastern Parkway Price Chopper in Schenectady, told the Times Union that he asked them frequently in recent months, “If you had to die, would you rather jump off a building or jump out of a plane without a parachute?”

(Sch’dy Daily Gazette, photo by Bruce Squiers) This is the tar-covered damaged roof, where Sloan Carafello landed and met his death. The home is located on Duanesburg Road in the town of Dunanesburg, a mostly-rural town a few miles from Schenectady and about a dozen miles west of Albany.

Beyond the note of sadness that I would normally feel about a news item like this, I’m particularly touched by Sloan’s story, because I’ve learned that he lived in a single-occupancy room at our downtown YMCA, just a block and a half from my home. He was one the 182 men who stay on the fourth floor of the YMCA at 13 State St.

Unfortunately, many of my neighbors, and their Stockade Neighborhood Association, very much resent having the Y program located at the edge of our residential historic district (although no one ever points to actual crimes or disturbances caused by these down-on-their-luck men, who are trying to get their lives back together). The Association is very upset that the Y might not remove the program when it moves its gym and pool to a new, distant building.

I hope the struggling young man did not feel that hostility, as he rode his bike or strolled through the neighborhood, with his ever-present backpack and blue parka. It sounds like he bothered no one while living his solitary life.

According to today’s Gazette:

  • YMCA Residence Director Louis Magliocca, described Carafello as “Real quiet. . . . His name never came across my desk as an issue there.” And, Carafello never missed a rent payment since his arrival at the YMCA. Carafello, unlike many of the residents, did not come to the YMCA because of a substance abuse problem.
  • The Y staff reported no issues involving Carafello on Friday or Saturday. Magliocca said state police told him they searched Carafello’s room and did not find a suicide note.
  • According to Sloan’s former landlord, who also runs the boxing gym where he frequently worked out, he was a loner and did not have any friends. Although he may have family in the Troy area, none have been mentioned in any news report so far. update (June 10, 2008): Today’s Albany Times Union reports: “Ryan Carafello, Carafello’s twin, on Monday said the family does not blame Rawlins in any way for his brother’s death. He said his brother was an ‘independent individual’ and that no one else could be held accountable for his suicide.” Ryan also said his family had always loved Carafello and opened their arms to him, but his brother chose to be a loner.

In today’s Times Union, we are told that “Sloan Carafello didn’t talk much. Not when he was at work stocking fish at Price Chopper, and not as a passenger in the sky-diving plane from which he leaped to his death in what State Police are calling an apparent suicide.” The story adds:

“The people who had contact with Carafello in his final moments were still shocked by his death on Sunday. They struggled to understand the silent guy whose life ended when he hit the roof of a house on Duanesburg Road. . . .

” . . . He boxed at a gym nearby and worked out frequently, said James Commarto, the gym’s owner and Carafello’s landlord in Schenectady before he moved to the YMCA. Commarto said Carafello never had parties and kept an immaculate apartment. . .

“Commarto said Carafello previously told him he hadn’t talked to his family in years.”

window I have no answers and nothing profound to add. I wish Sloan had not decided to kill himself. If he was determined to do so, I wish he had done it in a way that did not traumatize so many others. But, most of all, as I said at the head of this posting, I hope Sloan Carafello will rest in peace. May we improve our ability and our willingness to help other troubled souls like Sloan Carafello.

update (June 10, 1 PM): An obituary in today’s Albany Times Union tells a story of a young man with many interests (e.g., hiking, travel, photography, oil painting, Bob Marley music, reading biographies) and many loving family members. He was born in 1979, in Catskill, NY; was the son of Jerry E. and Orlinda Reid Carafallo; and had three siblings, including a twin brother, Ryan. Funeral and burial information are included in the obituary.

Personal note: As a twin myself, my heart goes out to Ryan, as I try to imagine what the loss of my brother in any manner — but especially in this manner — would feel like.

afterwords (June 145, 2008):  “Long Story Short” (Life Obscure, June 13, 2008) is a particularly thoughtful weblog posting about Sloan by a young woman called Waven.

summer’s end—
riding a borrowed bicycle
past the graveyard

……………….. by paul m. – from finding the way

staring
back up the open eyes
of the suicide

….. by George Swede – Taboo Haiku (2006) – TabooHaikuCover

autumn evening –
yellow leaves cover
the plot reserved for me

An obituary
circled in the newspaper–
pale winter moon

My small family gone–
ants crawl on their graves
in the pale autumn sun

window neg …… by Rebecca Lilly
“cold autumn dusk” – Shadwell Hills (Birch Press, 2002)
“autumn evening” – A New Resonance 2; Modern Haiku XXX:2

news of his death
the cigarette smoke rises
straight up

……… by DeVar Dahl – New Resonance 3 gullsFN

6 Comments

  1. I know the Carafello family, went to school and lived with his older brother. They are a caring and loving family. If they were estranged, it was probably due to things beyond their control.

    Comment by Matt — June 9, 2008 @ 9:13 pm

  2. Thank you for your input, Matt. If there were an estrangement, it could very much increase the family’s sense of loss and lost opportunity. Update (June 10, 2007): As I added in the body of this post, according to today’s Albany Times Union: Ryan Carafello, Carafello’s twin “said his family had always loved Carafello and opened their arms to him, but his brother chose to be a loner.”

    Comment by David Giacalone — June 9, 2008 @ 9:23 pm

  3. I wish Sloan had not decided to kill himself. If he was determined to do so, I wish he had done it in a way that did not traumatized so many others…
    I still see him steping out of that plane… as I close my eyes

    Comment by Student — June 11, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

  4. […] newspaper, and here in the Schenectady Daily Gazette, along with a succinct summary and tribute here from a Harvard […]

    Comment by Long Story Short « Life Osbcure — June 13, 2008 @ 9:32 pm

  5. Thank you so very much for your insight into our son’s death. I found Sloan a year ago after searching for three years. He said he wasn’t ready to come home yet, even to visit our close knit family. Sloan said he just wanted to be alone. Then he changed addresses and workplaces. One consolation is his strong faith in God. Another consolation is the hundreds of lives he touched . His last words to me were, “Dad, there is so much evil in this world.” Thank you again.
    Sloan’s Dad

    Comment by Jerry E. Carafello — June 14, 2008 @ 9:27 am

  6. Mr. Carafello, Your words mean a lot to me and I very much appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts and tell us a little more about Sloan and his family. Condolences are always so inadequate, but I sincerely send them to your entire family.

    Comment by David Giacalone — June 14, 2008 @ 9:41 am

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